Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy – By A.W. Tozer

 

Tozer Knowledge of the Holy.pngletter-aAW. Tozer is what one might call a classic author within Christianity; he’s one of those individuals which many Christians can recognize along with C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers. This isn’t to say these authors are particularly comparable, simply that they are recognizable.

The first time I read through Tozer’s works three or four years ago I was never particularly impressed, going back I have developed much more of an appreciation for him.

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The Knowledge of the Holy is A.W. Tozer’s analysis of the attributes of God, with an ‘attribute’ being defined as “whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself.” His reason for this analysis is quite simple, “because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological.”

Our view of God defines who we are, thus for Christians having a proper view of God is vitally important. Everything that we do in life is meant to revolve around God and giving Him glory; we are his creations, and yet often we don’t even bother to learn about who he is, sufficing to create our own image based upon logic or our imaginations. Correcting the false idol which man has put in God’s place is for Tozer one of the most vital things which needs to be done: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.”

Having a right view of God will not only allow us to better worship, but will also help is in our practical issues as well.

Tackling the attributes of God often poses a difficult task for theologians. There are many ways which one may try and go about the issue (utilizing pure logic, making analogies from nature, picking apart scripture, etc), and Tozer takes a very solid road through this. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this discussion is noted by Tozer, saying that: “When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image of out of that which He has made and what He has made is not God.”

This is perhaps one of the most important points which can be made when discussing the attributes of God; as he notes elsewhere, these are not parts of God, God is a whole and attributes which we ascribe to him are not divisions but categories created by men for description.

One pitfall which theologians and philosophers often fall into when addressing this subject is to simply ascribe various attributes to God and leave the matter be. They lay out orthodox thought but fail to elaborate on why this is significant, and this is one pitfall which Tozer manages to avoid with skill.

Tozer’s goal in outlining the attributes of God is not simply to provide sound doctrine, but to give significance to this doctrine as well. Tozer not only discusses the immanence, the omniscience and the Trinitarian nature of God, but he gives meaning and importance of these practically for man; he tells the reader why he should care that God is omnipresent and exactly how this knowledge should affect his daily walk and life overall. This, I think, is what sets this study of the attributes of God above many others.

The Knowledge of the Holy is readable and concise, devotional as well as deep, and I’d recommend it for anybody regardless of whether they are specifically desiring to gain the theological knowledge presented.

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Memorable Quotes:

-“Every man lives by faith, the nonbeliever as well as the saint; the one by faith in natural laws and the other by faith in God.”

-“God alone trusts in Himself; all other beings must trust in him. Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men.”

-“The unbelieving mind would not be convinced by any proof, and the worshiping heart needs none.”

“It is possible to have some truth in the mind without having the Spirit in the heart, but it is never possible to have the Spirit apart from truth.”

-“[Love] considers nothing its own but gives all freely to the object of its affection.”

Specific Criticisms

I really have few criticisms that I can make of this book. I think Tozer’s approach to discussing the attributes is one of the better I’ve read. I do think that in the final chapter where Tozer discusses how to “Acquaint thyself with God” that he would have done well to insert a gospel message, noting that this process begins on God’s end and that what we must do is not as important as what has already been done by God.

Tozer does have an interesting analysis of Sovereignty versus Freedom, which while I’m not fully convinced of its absolute correctness does offer an interesting take on the matter:“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.”

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Eugene Lilley (MDiv, MA) is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society.

He may or may not be a Time Lord.

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